Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB857 into law Tuesday, outlawing the use of creosote-treated wood products as a fuel source for electricity generation.
The bill was unanimously passed by the Georgia legislature this year after a push by citizens’ groups in Madison and Franklin counties to protect them from the burning of creosote at Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) biomass plants in Colbert and Carnesville.
Members of the Madison County Clean Power Coalition (MCCPC) were on hand for the signing.
“Best day ever,” said MCCPC co-chair Gina Ward.
MCCPC co-chair Drago Tesanovich said the bill signing is a “near perfect example of the power of the people.”
“GRP, or anyone else, can no longer burn railroad crossties as fuel,” he said. “This bill will now protect all the citizens of Georgia from this dangerous practice. There are too many people to thank individually. So many people did so many things that contributed to the success of this bill. I’ll just say thanks to everyone who was part of the effort. We the people were successful and it feels great! There are many more problems at the GRP plant. Working together we can have the same success on those issues as we have had with the railroad cross ties. The will of the people cannot be stopped.”
Ruth Ann Tesanovich, MCPC secretary and treasurer, said it was “a great experience to stand beside Governor Kemp and watch HB857 be signed into law.”
“I am proud of all of the determined people who came together, helped one another, and accomplished what at first seemed unattainable,” she said. “These folks are really ‘my good neighbors!’ Thank you all!”
The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Alan Powell, was approved 163-0 on March 12 by the House of Representatives and 48-0 by the Senate on June 25.
A RESPONSE FROM GRP
GRP Executive Vice President Carey Davis issued the following response to Gov. Kemp's signing of HB857:
GRP accepts Governor Kemp's signing of HB 857, which prohibits the burning of chemically treated railroad ties in Georgia subject to certain exemptions. GRP will comply with the new law but is disappointed that the law is based on misinformation regarding the environmental effect of the burning of these railroad ties.
The State of Georgia and the railroad associations were concerned that these railroad ties were either creating an environmental hazard by accumulating alongside railroad tracks or depleting landfill space and approached GRP for an environmentally friendly alternative to recycle and beneficially use these materials. There were already several plants in Georgia that burn these railroad ties for energy production but none of these were located in the vicinity of the GRP facilities. GRP was asked to fill this gap in the need for these plants in Georgia. Like the other plants, the GRP facilities obtained air quality permits from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to authorize the burning of these railroad ties. The permits place stringent restrictions on the use of the railroad ties as fuel source and the emissions from the facilities. In issuing the permit, EPD determined that these railroad ties could be burned in a safe and responsible manner without emissions that would adversely impact human health or the environment. GRP has followed all permit requirements for the burning of these railroad ties at its facilities.
Further, there are no additional emissions from the combustion of these railroad ties because all of the volatile chemicals in these railroad ties are consumed in the combustion process. However, in passing the law, the Georgia Legislature neglected to consider the abundant scientific information from regulatory agencies and industry associations demonstrating that the burning of these railroad ties is not only acceptable but environmentally preferable means of addressing the issues of disposal of these railroad ties. Additionally, by providing an exemption allowing the other biomass plants in Georgia to continue to burn these railroad ties, the law appears to have been intended to target the GRP facilities rather than to address a real environmental problem in the state.
Even though the law was politically based and not supportable from a regulatory and scientific perspective, GRP remains committed to providing clean and efficient energy, as well as bringing jobs and tax revenue to the local community, in a manner that complies with all environmental requirements.